Heaven on Wheels

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"Some biker ministries are too pushy," Rudy continues. "I've heard some of them at rallies yelling through megaphones, 'You're going to hell! Repent!' I don't even like that, and I'm a Christian. But Church in the Wind is not pushy at all. Gary Davis is welcomed with open arms wherever he goes. Everyone respects him."

Bill agrees. "Gary is a wonderful guy," he says. "He does a lot to help the biker community, even if they're not religious. When we have a death in the family or an emergency, Church in the Wind is there for us."

"It's a challenging group of people he works with," adds Riverside's Duane Arledge. "It's a group that's pretty much ignored by mainstream society. Society in general doesn't know what to do with bikers, but Gary does."

While Gary is grateful to Arledge and Riverside for giving his congregation shelter, he thinks it's about time for Church in the Wind to move out on its own. The church definitely needs more space; its offices are still located in the Davis house. In addition to Friday-night services, Gary would like to be able to host Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, serve meals to the hungry, and more easily disperse items from its food bank and donated-clothes collection (which often includes a lot of leather).

Many bikers live in the suburbs north of the city and find it difficult to get downtown on Friday nights when sporting or cultural events tie up I-25, so relocating the Friday service to north Denver would be more convenient. Then again, bikers who live in Castle Rock and Littleton often can't make it through rush-hour traffic to reach the church, so a location in south Denver would be good, too. Gary and Diana agree that Friday night is still the best time to meet, because bikers aren't going to give up their Saturday and Sunday rides -- not for God, not for anyone.

But while the congregation is growing, it doesn't have money to purchase or lease another building right now. Gary's pinned his hopes on someone with a big wallet and a soft spot for born-again bikers. In the meantime, the lack of funds doesn't stop him from dreaming. "If the Bandidos and Hells Angels can have chapters in France and Denmark and Germany," he says, "why can't Church in the Wind?"

From the way Peggy Papineau acts today, you'd never know she used to be a barroom brawler. She welcomes newcomers to Church in the Wind with the warmth of a den mother, all the while keeping a vigilant eye on fifteen-year-old David.

Peggy is strong now, and the bitterness she carried around with her for much of her life is gone. But she's going to need all the strength she can muster for life's latest blow: Two months ago, Peggy learned that she has an incurable blood infection that probably originated from a fungal infection in her foot.

"The doctors don't know how long I have to live," Peggy says. "When I found out, I cried for two days. I said to God, 'I finally believe in you, my marriage is good, and now this?'"

The bad news doesn't end there. Peggy's best friend, a woman from church, was just diagnosed with lymphoma. Armand, Peggy's husband, recently lost his construction job, and Peggy, who teaches preschool and kindergarten and cleans houses, is having a hard time paying for her costly medication. "I think it's just a test of our faith," explains Peggy. "The thing that really hurts is that I'm leaving behind my son and husband.

"I always thought smoking would kill me," she jokes. "Boy, was I wrong."

If she hadn't found her faith and Church in the Wind, Peggy knows she'd be a wreck. "I would have dwelled on it and cried all the time and gone into a deep depression," she says. "It probably would have eaten me up.

"But now I know I'm going to a better place, and I'm at peace with it."

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Julie Jargon
Contact: Julie Jargon